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"A Peek into our Backyard": Garden tour will help locals cultivate their inner green thumb

David Floyd • Jul 6, 2016 at 6:56 PM

Learning how to garden often requires a lot of trial and error.

Just ask Kathy Serago.

Today, she’s something of an expert on repairing man-made ponds, having operated a small business called PondMaids that was dedicated to that task. 

But that wasn’t always the case.

When Serago and her family moved from Miami to a new home in Johnson City, the house’s previous occupants had left the small, artificial pond next to the building full of large fish. The pond was purified by a water filter, which had to be cleaned every day to prevent it from clogging.

“I told my husband the day we moved in, ‘Let’s just turn it off, I’ll clean it in the morning,’” Serago said. “Well, in the morning, all those fish were dead. ... That’s when I started my education on ponds.”

After a lot of hard work, Serago’s yard is now a lavish, miniature ecosystem, complete with a large koi pond, a babbling waterfall, verdant plant life and several small statues.

Later this month, Serago’s yard will be one of several gardens featured during a walking tour called “A Peek into our Backyard,” an event that was organized by members of the Tree Streets community.

“Especially during (the Tree Streets Yard Sale), people would say, ‘Can I peek in your backyard? Can I see what your backyard looks like?’” said Mary Lee Jondahl, who helped organize the event this year with Serago and other members of the neighborhood garden tour committee. “So that’s where the name came from all those years ago.”

This year marks the first time since 2011 that the community has come together to celebrate the event, which has drawn upwards of 200 people in the past.

The self-guided tour will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. July 16, and tickets for the event are now available.

Advance tickets are $8 and can be purchased at Downtown Farming, 211 Cherry St. in Johnson City. On the day of the event, visitors can pick up $10 tickets at Veterans Park, where the tour will start. At Veterans Park, participants will also receive general information about the tour and will have the opportunity to enter a drawing.

Eight destinations will be on the tour, with five of them being unique residential gardens that offer their own distinct flavors.

In addition to highlighting several gardens in the Tree Streets area, the Historic Tree Streets Garden Tour will also offer visitors the opportunity to learn about various gardening techniques, including pollination and hydroponics.

One Acre Cafe at 603 W. Walnut St. will host a demonstration in the corner garden on how to build a rain barrel. The event will take place from 10:30 a.m. to noon.

Dogwood Farm and Vineyard at 1105 Sevier St. will feature a hydroponics lesson by Downtown Farming and a pollination information station, which will provide instructions on how to produce an ideal habitat for pollinators.

Organizers also encourage participants to visit the Tree Streets Community Garden at the corner of West Pine and Spring streets, where community members can rent a plot and grow any variety of produce for themselves or their family.

The profits gathered during the event will help pay for a community art project in Veterans Park and support neighborhood beautification.

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